MISSISSIPPI - Detention center malfunction prelude to emergency session

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July 25, 2000

Detention center malfunction prelude to emergency session

By Pamela Berry Clarion-Ledger Staff Writer

Hours before the Hinds County Board of Supervisors held an emergency meeting Monday on the county detention center, a malfunction practically shut down the facility.

The emergency meeting was scheduled to address the latest problems plaguing the Raymond facility, which opened in 1994.

One expert estimated it would cost the county $132,000 to correct most of the problems, which are mainly electrical. The county has already spent $500,000 in labor and materials repairing previous problems with the building.

"The entire control panel shut down at 1:30 a.m. this morning, shutting down the entire facility," said Hinds County Sheriff's Department Capt. Doug Jones. "None of the doors could be opened from the control room. We had to crank them open by hand and post a guard at the door."

Power surges have also burned the fuses for the security cameras and other electrical components.

Supervisors unanimously approved bringing in an expert from California, at $5,000 to $8,000, to diagnose what is causing the cell doors to malfunction and make recommendations for repairs.

The board also voted to postpone a mediation meeting set for today with the facility's contractor until a final tally on the county's repair costs is given.

Hinds County and Dunn Construction are in mediation over a lawsuit which the county filed years ago seeking to recoup the money it spent repairing the building.

The suit claims Dunn and its subcontractors defrauded the county by not following specifications on the detention center project.

The primary architect for the project, Allen & Hoshall Ltd., settled its portion of the suit for $650,000 in 1997.

Christopher Solop, attorney for Dunn Construction, said his client was unaware of the recent claims about problems at the facility.

"Today was the first knowledge or information that we have had from Hinds County that there was any new alleged problem with the security system," said Solop, an attorney with Ott and Purdy.

Solop said it's possible Dunn could hire his own consultant to investigate the recent allegations.

"That should not be considered an admission of liability," Solop said. "My client and his subcontractors are interested in trying to figure out what's going on."

On Monday, Hinds County Sheriff Malcolm McMillin said it was frustrating to have continuous problems with the building. He urged supervisors to quickly address the problem.

Board of Supervisors President Doug Anderson said the building is a priority for the board.

"I think we need to have started yesterday because if one of those inmates gets out of there and injures somebody, $132,000 will look like peanuts," Anderson said.


-- Doris (reaper1@mindspring.com), July 25, 2000

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